Julie Dexter & Thehc3 ‘The Smiling Hour’ (Ketch A Vibe) 3/5

julie-dexterWe are impressed by Ms Dexter’s new album “The Smiling Hour”. Julie Dexter, from Birmingham, UK to Atlanta, US with talent! She has been performing and growing in reputation for over a decade. Her newly released album comes on her own record label, Ketch A Vibe. She has toured with Courtney Pine, collaborated with Khari Simmons on Moon Bossa (back in 2007). Worth noting, Khari Simmons notably worked recently with another hugely talented lady, Cecilia Stalin, on her “The Story of Love” EP. So on her new album, Dexter has Thehc3’s trio close by: Henry Conerway III on drums, Nick Rosen on keys and Kevin Smith on bass.
An amalgam of jazz, soul, funk, Julie Dexter manages to come across as her own self. To be clear, there could be a few parallels drawn here, but suffice to say, Dexter has succeeded to create a real persona because she has real talent. This, in itself, is quite rare these days. Her soft and clear voice ability is astounding especially on jazz standards like “Afro Blue”. And talking about standards, there are quite a few on the album, but the smoothness with which Dexter performs these only adds on to the massive points she has already accumulated. Her reputation is impeccably intact and rising all the time. Listening to a song like “Never Let Me Go” (Joseph Scott) explains why, but then again…. there is also the beautiful “Black Nile” (Wayne Shorter), Rosen’s solo on this track is smooth as ice and combined with a perfectly pitched voice by Ms Dexter, it is indeed a good rendition.
“The Nearness of You” a 1938 jazz standard by Hoagy Carmichael sees Julie Dexter sing this with a calm and deeply meaningful tone. Not too serious, not too deep, one can tell she is feeling it. Love the way the artist makes this song hers. It is done simply and elegantly. No frills.
“The Smiling Hour” could almost be the perfect night-time album, it has tones that go so well whilst listening deep throughout the dark hours, but then one realises it is easy smooth sailing from morning to night: Julie Dexter and Thehc3 offer the listener a different kind of work. In “That’s Livin”, the singing comes across with pain, we need to pay attention to the words, Dexter portrayal is accurate, no need to add more to the presentation, there is real drama in her voice.
“Cotton Tail” – a sheer journey of solos turning the tempo up with the great Kevin Smith on bass whilst Nick Rosen and Henry Conerway complement the playing in equal manner.
The album concludes with “Afro Blue” – a jazz standard played and sung by many but not always rendered as it should. Ms Dexter sings it with effortlessly lustrous tones. My favourite track, for sure. A good album to return to the scene with.

Erminia Yardley